There were no assassins, of course, because she was only famous enough to be murdered and, really, no one wanted her dead that she knew of. There were the You-Are-Dead-To-Me friends from another era who, for one reason or another, decided they didn't want to acknowledge her existence any longer. There were the good friends who blurted out that they would kill her when she suggested a place they hated for lunch, much as she offered to slay them when they wanted her to go to a particular bad movie. Sitting on the banquette, having the occasional sip of coffee, she believed there would be no life-or-death excitement.
When she was wrong, she admitted it. She thought the worst thing going on was that her new manager was a controlling maniac who played favorites and made life hell for those he perceived as a threat to his way of working. She wasn't young, she didn't want to be the manager, the clients loved her, and she was punctual and rarely absent. She did not suck up which he could not abide. Sycophants always know whom to flatter and the laziest people in the office were his favorites because they wisely knew if they sucked up, they didn't have to work as hard. He was making her life a living hell and she just couldn't face it today. This was not, however, as bad as what came next.
When she saw the man, what impressed her was his expensive suit. She could see how beautiful and expensive the wool was, how costly the tailoring had been, how much that lovely suit with the perfect fit must have cost. The shirt and tie were equally unique and perfect. His shoes were beautiful loafers, a buttery leather with understated tassles that managed to not move too much when he walked. His hairline wasn't much but is haircut was very good and his skin shone like a man who had regular facials. He obviously worked out. This was the picture of middle-aged perfection. He was looking right at her and caught her eye. More baffling yet, he smiled, and when he got to the table, he spoke to her.
"How are you today?" he asked.
"Fine enough, thanks," she replied.
"Could be better?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said. "Pretty much."
"I'm sorry to hear that," he said. "I know how you feel."
"Yeah? How?" she wondered.
"Do you mind if I sit down next to you?" he asked.
"On this side of the banquette?" she asked. "My side?"
"Yes, your side. You don't mind if we talk softly with our heads together, do you?"
In the next five seconds, what went through her head was a combination of yeah, I mind because I don't know you and do you own no mirror to see how far out of your league I am? plus Start walking, freak, and don't look back. Of course, she was curious. What was going on here?
"You can sit across from me and we can lean in across the table. You can do that, right?"
He looked at her for ten seconds and what probably was going through his head at least seven times was Look at you and look at me; how could you not want to sit next to this?
"Fine," he said, pulling out the chair with a scrape, and sat down, looking over his shoulder.
"Expecting someone?" she asked.
"Yes, I am which I why I wanted to sit on your side of the banquette."
"You can sit at the table closest to the restrooms. That seat faces front."
"No, no, too close to the restroom," he countered.
"How about this one to my right?" she asked.
"Too close to the window and the soda machine blocks a solid view."
He had really thought this out. She realized that he was one of the regulars. This guy conducted business in the building every day but not in the office tower. Mr. King might have called him a contractual regular.
She would have normally just gotten up and gone to work but she didn't want to go to work. She wanted to just figure that crap out and she wanted to sit at this banquette ten floors below her place of business to do it.
"Okay, sit by me," she said. She knew this was an ill-conceived solution but occasionally solutions are just not well thought out.
He smiled broadly, stood up, replaced the chair without scraping it and sat next to her on the vinyl booth.
He had no detectable scent. She was thinking he'd smell like an expensive manly fragrance but you'd never be able to describe his aroma as anything other than neutral.
"Your perfume is nice," he said. He leaned into her and inhaled deeply. "I'm thinking French. I'm thinking," he inhaled again, "Shalimar."
She was shocked. It was from an old bottle of Shalimar she'd come across at the back of her bathroom cabinet and she decided to just put a little on to see if she still liked it. She didn't but she didn't want to take it off and start again.
"You have skills," she said.
"Many skills," he said, settling back to look straight ahead.
They were quiet for a few minutes and looking straight ahead, he said, "Tell me what's bothering you. But don't look at me when you do. Just look straight ahead and speak."
"You said we'd talk softly with our heads together."
"That's before I realized how smart you are. Straight ahead. Go."
Weird, she thought. This was just flat out weird. Still, she started talking.